Because varroa mites, and to a lesser degree, tracheal mites, are such a steady danger to honeybee health, they garner much of the attention of the beekeeping world.
Beekeepers seems to rarely mention ants, but the presence of ants can sometimes be a huge nuisance – especially here in Southern California. During the late summer and early fall when ant populations are at their peak and bee populations are beginning to decline, relentless rows and rows of ants march through apiaries on their way towards vulnerable beehives, seeking prized honey and pollen.
Fortunately, for the most part, bees are able to fight off the onslaught. Guard bees frantically patrol the openings to the hive, chasing ants away one at a time. Most of the time, the bees are able to hold their own and keep the ants at bay. One of the best ways that a beekeeper can provide support to a colony that is struggling with ants is to place the colony on a hive stand. The legs of the stand can then be placed in cups of vegetable oil, providing a natural and effective barrier against ant invasions.
Without protection, sometimes the ants can get the upper hand on a weak colonies. Unchecked, ants can force even a strong colony to abscond – a sad and tragic sight for any beekeeper.